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In spite of himself, Spike felt a genial warming toward this boyish-faced
man. He had heard of Carroll, and rather feared his prowess; but now that
he was face to face with him, he found himself liking the chap. Not only
that, but he was conscious of a sense of protection, as if Carroll were
there for no other purpose than to take care of him, to see that he
received a square deal.

"Yes, sir, Mr. Carroll, I'll be glad to tell you anything I know."

"You have said, Walters, that the passenger you picked up at the Union
Station was a woman."

"Yes, sir, it was a woman."

"Are you sure?"

"Why, yes, sir. I couldn't very well be mistaken. You see - o-o-oh!
You're thinking maybe it was a man in woman's clothes? Is that it, sir?"

Carroll smiled.

"What do _you_ think?"

"That's impossible, sir. It was a woman - I'd swear to that."

"Pretty positive, eh?"

"Absolutely, sir. Besides, take the matter of the overcoat the - the - body
has on. Even if what you think was so, sir - that it was a woman dressed
up like a man - and if he had gotten rid of the women's clothes, where
would he have gotten the clothes to put on?"

"H-m! Sounds logical. How about the suit-case you said this woman had?"

"Yonder it is - right on the front beside me, where it has been all
the time."

"And you tell us that between the time you left the Union Station and the
time you got here a man got into the taxicab, was killed by the woman,
the woman got out, and you heard nothing?"

"Yes, sir," said Spike simply. "Just that, sir."

"Rather hard to believe, isn't it?"

"Yes, sir. That's why I called the police." Chief Leverage was shivering
under the impact of the winter blasts.

"S'pose we take a look at the bird, David," he suggested, nodding toward
the taxi. "That might tell us something."

Carroll nodded. The men entered the taxi, and Leverage flashed a
pocket-torch in the face of the dead man. Then he uttered an exclamation
of surprise not unmixed with horror.

"Good Lord!"

"You know him?" questioned Carroll easily.

"Know him? I'll say I do. Why, man, that's Roland Warren!"

"Warren! Roland Warren! Not the clubman?"

"The very same one, Carroll, an' none other. Well, I'm a sonovagun!
Sa-a-ay, something surely _has_ been started here." He swung around on
the taxi-driver. "You, Walters!"

"Yes, sir?"

"You are sure the suit-case is still in front?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well" - to Carroll - "that makes it easier. It's the woman's suit-case,
and if we can't find out who she is from that, we're pretty bum, eh?"

"Looks so, Erie. You're satisfied" - this to Walters - "that that is her
suit-case?"

"Absolutely. It hasn't been off the front since she handed it to me at
the station."

Carroll swung the suit-case to the inside of the cab. It opened readily.
Leverage kept his light trained on it as Carroll dug swiftly through the
contents. Finally the eyes of the two men met. Carroll's expression was
one of frank amazement; Leverage's reflected sheer unbelief.

"It can't be, Carroll!"

"Yet - it is!"

"Sufferin' wildcats!" breathed Leverage. "The suit-case ain't the woman's
at all! It's Warren's!"




CHAPTER III

"FIND THE WOMAN"


The thing was incomprehensible, yet true. Not a single article of
feminine apparel was contained in the suit-case. Not only that, but
every garment therein which bore an identification mark was the
property of Roland Warren, the man whose body leered at them from the
floor of the taxicab.

The two detectives again inspected the suit-case. An extra suit had been
neatly folded. The pockets bore the label of a leading tailor, and the
name "Roland R. Warren." The tailor-made shirts and underwear bore the
maker's name and Warren's initials. The handkerchiefs were Warren's. Even
those articles which were without name or initials contained the same
laundry-mark as those which they knew belonged to the dead man.

Carroll's face showed keen interest. This newest development had rather
startled him, and made an almost irresistible appeal to his love for the
bizarre in crime. The very fact that the circumstances smacked of the
impossible intrigued him. He narrowed his eyes and gazed again upon the
form of the dead man. Finally he nudged Leverage and designated three
initials on the end of the suit-case.

"R.R.W. - Roland R. Warren!" Leverage grunted. "It's his, all right,
Carroll. But just the same there ain't no such animal."

Carroll turned to the dazed Walters.

"Understand what we've just discovered, son?" he inquired mildly.

Spike's teeth were chattering with cold.

"I don't hardly understand none of it, sir. 'Cording to what I make out,
that suit-case belongs to the body and not to the woman."

"Right! Now what I want to know is how that could be."

Spike shook his head dazedly.

"Lordy, Mr. Carroll, I couldn't be knowing that."

"You're sure the woman got into your cab alone?"

"Absolutely, sir. She came through the waiting-room alone, carrying that
very same suit-case - "

"You're positive it was _that_ suit-case?"

"Yes, sir - that is, as positive as I can be. You see I was on the lookout
for a fare, but wasn't expecting one, on account of the fact that this
here train was an accommodation, and folks that usually come in on it
take street-cars and not a taxi. Well, the minute I seen a good-lookin',
well-dressed woman comin' out the door, I sort of noticed. It surprised
me first off, because I asked myself what she was doing on that train."

"You thought it was peculiar?"

"Not peculiar, exactly; but sort of - of - interesting."

"I see. Go ahead!"

"Well, she was carrying that suit-case, and she seemed in a sort of a
hurry. She walked straight out of the door and toward the curb, and - "

"Did she appear to be expecting some one?"

"No, sir. I noticed that particularly. Sort of thought a fine lady like
her would have some one to meet her, which is how I happened to notice
that she didn't seem to expect nobody. She come right to the curb and
called me. I was parked along the curb on the right side of Atlantic
Avenue - headin' north, that is - and I rolled up. She handed me the
suit-case and told me to drive her to No. 981 East End Avenue. I stuck
the suit-case right where you got it from just now; and while I ain't
sayin' nothin' about what happened back yonder in the cab, Mr. Carroll,
I'll bet anything in the world that that there suit-case is the same one
she carried through the waitin'-room and handed to me."

"H-m! Peculiar. You drove straight out here, Walters?"

"Straight as a bee-line, sir. Frozen stiff, I was, drivin' right into the
wind eastward along East End Avenue, and I had to raise the windshield a
bit because there was ice on it and I couldn't see nothin' - an' my
headlights ain't any too strong."

"You didn't stop anywhere?"

"No, sir. Wait a minute - I did!"

"Where?"

"At the R.L. and T. railroad crossing, sir. I didn't see nor hear no
train there, and almost run into it. It was a freight, and travelin'
kinder slow. I seen the lights of the caboose and stopped the car right
close to the track. I wasn't stopped more'n fifteen or twenty seconds,
and just as soon as the train got by, I went on."

"But you did stand still for a few seconds?"

"Yes, sir."

"If any one had got into or out of the cab right there, would you have
heard them?"

"I don't know that I would. I was frozen stiff, like I told you, sir; and
I wasn't thinking of nothin' like that. Besides, the train was makin' a
noise; an' me not havin' my thoughts on nothin' but how cold I was, an'
how far I had to drive, I mos' prob'ly wouldn't have noticed - although I
might have."

"Looks to me," chimed in Leverage, "as if that's where the shift must
have taken place; though it beats me - "

Carroll lighted a cigarette. Of the three men, he was the only one who
seemed impervious to the cold. Leverage and the taxi-driver were both
shivering as if with the ague. Carroll, an enormous overcoat snuggled
about his neck, his hands thrust deep into his pockets, his boyish face
set with interest, seemed perfectly comfortable. As a matter of fact, the
unique circumstances surrounding the murder had so interested him that he
had quite forgotten the weather.

"Obviously," he said to Leverage, "it's up to us to find out whether the
people at this house here expected a visitor."

"You said it, David; but I haven't any doubt it was a plant, a
fake address."

"I think so, too."

"Wait here." The chief started for the dark little house. "I'll ask 'em."

Three minutes later Leverage was back.

"Said nothing doing," he imparted laconically. "No one expected - no one
away who would be coming back - and then wanted to know who in thunder I
was. They almost dropped dead when I told 'em. No question about it, that
address was a stall. This dame had something up her sleeve, and took care
to see that your taxi man was given a long drive so she'd have plenty of
time to croak Warren."

"Then you think she met him by arrangement, chief?"

"Looks so to me. Only thing is, where did he get in?"

"That's what is going to interest us for some time to come, I'm afraid.
And now suppose we go back to town? I'll drive my car; I'll keep behind
you and Walters, here. You ride together in his cab."

Walters clambered to his seat, and succeeded, after much effort, in
starting his frozen motor. Leverage bulked beside him on the suit-case of
the dead man. The taxi swung cityward, and immediately behind trailed
Carroll in his cozy coupe.

As Carroll drove mechanically through the night, he gave himself over to
a siege of intensive thought. The case seemed fraught with unusual
interest. Already it had developed an overplus of extraordinary
circumstances, and Carroll had a decided premonition that the road of
investigation ahead promised many surprises.

There was every reason why it should. The social prominence of the dead
man, the mysterious disappearance of the handsomely dressed woman - all
the facts of the case pointed to an involved trail.

If it were true that the woman had entered the taxicab alone, that the
man had come in later, and that the murder had been committed by the
woman in the cab before reaching the railroad crossing, the thing must
undoubtedly have been prearranged to the smallest fractional detail. That
being the premise, it was only a logical conclusion that persons other
than the woman and the dead man were involved.

Interesting - decidedly so! But there was nothing to work on. Even the
suit-case clue had vanished into thin air, so far as its value to the
police was concerned.

That suit-case bothered Carroll. He believed Spike's story, and was
convinced that the suit-case which they had examined out on East End
Avenue was the one which the woman had carried from the train to the
taxicab. There again the trail of the dead man and the vanished woman
crossed; else why was she carrying his suit-case?

The journey was over before he knew it. The yellow taxi turned down the
alley upon which headquarters backed, and jerked to a halt before the
ominous brown-stone building. Carroll parked his car at the rear,
assigned some one to stand guard over the body, and the three men,
Leverage carrying the suit-case, ascended the steps to the main room and
thence to the chief's private office.

The warmth of the place was welcome to all of them, and in the
comforting glow of a small grate fire, which nobly assisted the
struggling furnace in its task of heating the spacious structure, Spike
Walters seemed to lose much of the nervousness which he had exhibited
since the discovery of the body. Carroll warmed his hands at the blaze,
and then addressed Leverage.

"How about this case, chief?"

"How about it?"

"You want me to butt in on it?"

"_Want_ you? Holy sufferin' oysters! Carroll, if you didn't work on it,
I'd brain you! You're the only man in the State who could - "

"Soft-pedal the blarney," grinned Carroll. "And now - the suit-case
again."

He dropped to his knees and opened the suit-case. Garment by garment he
emptied it, searching for some clue, some damning bit of evidence, which
might explain the woman's possession of the dead man's belongings. He
found nothing. It was evident that the grip had been carefully packed for
a journey of several days at least; but it was a man's suit-case, and its
contents were exclusively masculine.

Carroll shrugged as he rose to his feet. He turned toward Spike Walters
and laid a gentle hand on the young man's shoulder.

"Walters," he said, "I want to let you know that I believe your story
all the way through. I think that Chief Leverage does, too - how about
it, chief?"

"Sounds all right to me."

"But we've got to hold you for a while, my lad. It's tough, but you were
the person found with the body, and we've naturally got to keep you in
custody. Understand?"

"Yes, sir. It's none too pleasant, but I guess it's all right."

"We'll see that you're made comfortable, and I hope we'll be able to let
you go within a day or so."

He pressed a button, and turned Walters over to one of the officers on
inside duty, with instructions to see that the young taxi-driver was
afforded every courtesy and comfort, and was not treated as a criminal.
Spike turned at the door.

"I want to thank you - "

"That's all right, Spike!"

"You're both mighty nice fellers - especially you, Mr. Carroll. I'm for
you every time!"

Carroll blushed like a schoolgirl. The door closed behind Walters, and
Carroll faced Leverage.

"Next thing is the body, chief."

"Want it up here?"

"If you please."

An orderly was summoned, commands given, and within five minutes the body
of the dead man was borne into the room and laid carefully on the couch.
Leverage glanced inquisitively at Carroll.

"Want the coroner?"

"Surely; and you might also call in the newspapermen."

"Eh? Reporters?"

"Yes. I have a hunch, Leverage, that a great gob of sensational
publicity, right now, will be of inestimable help. Meanwhile let's get
busy before either the coroner or the reporters arrive."

The two detectives went over the body meticulously. Warren had been shot
through the heart. Carroll bent to inspect the wound, and when he
straightened his manner showed that he had become convinced of one
important fact. In response to Leverage's query, he explained:

"Shot fired from mighty close," he said.

"Sure?"

"The flame from the gun has scorched his clothes. That's proof enough."

"In the taxi, eh?"

"Possibly."

"But the driver would have heard."

"He probably would; but he didn't."

"Ye-e-es."

Carroll resumed his inspection of the body, examining every detail of
figure and raiment; and while he worked he talked.

"You know something about this chap?"

"More or less. He's prominent socially; belongs to clubs, and
all that sort of thing. Has money - real money. Bachelor - lives
alone. Has a valet, and all that kind of rot. Owns his car.
Golfer - tennis-player - huntsman. Popular with women - and men, too,
I believe. About thirty-three years old."

"Business?"

"None. He's one of the few men in town who don't work at something.
That's how I happen to know so much about him. A chap who's different
from other fellows is usually worth knowing something about."

"Right you are! But that sort of a man - you'd hardly think he'd be the
victim of - hello, what's this?"

Carroll had been going through the dead man's wallet. He rose to his
feet, and as he did so Leverage saw that the purse was stuffed with bills
of large denomination - a very considerable sum of money. But apparently
Carroll was not interested in the money; in his hand he held a
railroad-ticket and a small purple Pullman check.

"What's the idea?" questioned Leverage.

"Brings us back to the woman again," replied Carroll, with peculiar
intensity.

"How so?"

"He was planning to take a trip with her."

Leverage glanced at the other man with an admixture of skepticism
and wonder.

"How did you guess that?"

"I didn't guess it. It's almost a sure thing. At least, it is pretty
positive that he was not planning to go alone."

"Yes? Tell me how you know."

Carroll extended his hand.

"See here - a ticket for a drawing-room to New York, and _one_
railroad-ticket!"

"Yes, but - "

"Two railroad-tickets are required for possession of the drawing-room,"
he said quietly. "Warren had only one. It is clear, then, that the
holder of the missing ticket was going to accompany him; so what we have
to do now - "

"Is to find the other railroad-ticket," finished Leverage dryly. "Which
isn't any lead-pipe cinch, I'd say!"




CHAPTER IV

CARROLL HAS A VISITOR


Carroll gazed intently upon the face of the dead man. There was a
half quizzical light in the detective's eyes as he spoke, apparently
to no one.

"I've often thought," he said, "in a case like this, how much simpler
things would be if the murdered man could talk."

"H-m!" rejoined the practical Leverage. "If he could, he wouldn't be
dead."

"Perhaps you're right. And following that to a logical conclusion, if
he were not dead _we_ wouldn't be particularly interested in what he
had to say."

"All of which ain't got a heap to do with the fact that your work is cut
out for you, Carroll. You're dead sure about that ticket dope, ain't you?
I ain't used to traveling in drawing-rooms myself."

"It's straight enough, Leverage. The railroad company won't allow a
single passenger to occupy a drawing-room - that is, they demand two
tickets. If you, for instance, were traveling alone, and desired a
drawing-room, you'd be compelled to have two tickets for yourself. That
being so, it is plain that Warren there didn't intend making this trip to
New York alone. If he had, he would have had the two tickets along with
the drawing-room check. I am certain that two tickets were bought,
because the railroad men won't sell a drawing-room with a single ticket.
It is obvious, then, that he bought two tickets and gave the other one to
the person who was to make the trip with him."

"The woman, of course!"

"What woman?"

"The woman in the fur coat - the one who got into the taxicab."

"Perhaps; but she came in on the accommodation train after the New York
train was due to leave. The fast train was late."

"So was the accommodation. They are due to make connection."

"That's true. If we can find that ticket - "

"We'll have found the woman, and when we find her the case will end."

"Probably - "

The door opened, and Sergeant O'Leary entered.

"The coroner, sorr - him an' a reporter from each av the mornin' papers."

"Show the coroner in first," ordered Carroll. "Let the newspapermen
wait."

"Yis, sorr. They seem a bit impatient, sorr. They say they're holdin' up
the city edition for the news, sorr."

"Very good. Tell them Chief Leverage says the story is worth
waiting for."

The coroner - a short, thick-set man - entered and heard the story from
Leverage's lips. He made a cursory examination and nodded to Carroll.

"Inquest in the morning, Mr. Carroll. Meanwhile, I reckon you want to let
them newspapermen in."

The two reporters entered and listened popeyed to the story. They
telephoned a bulletin to their offices, and were assured of an hour's
leeway in phoning in the balance of the story. They were quivering with
excitement over what promised to be, from a newspaper standpoint, the
juiciest morsel of sensational copy with which the city had been blessed
for some time.

To them Carroll recounted the story as he knew it, concealing nothing.

"This is a great space-eating story," he told them in their own
language - the jargon of the fourth estate - "and the more it eats the
better it'll be for me. We want publicity on this case - all you can hand
out big chunks of it. We want to know who that woman was. The way I
figure it, this city is going to get a jolt at breakfast. Every one is
going to be comparing notes. Out of that mass of gossip we may get some
valuable information. Get that?"

"We do. Space in the morning edition will be limited, but by evening, and
the next morning - oh, baby!"

They took voluminous notes and telephoned in enough additional
information to keep the city rooms busy. When they would have gone,
Carroll stopped them.

"Either of you chaps know anything of Warren's personal history?"

The elder of the two nodded.

"I do. Know him personally, in fact. I've played golf with him. Pretty
nice sort."

"Rich, isn't he?"

"Reputed to be. Never works; spends freely - not ostentatiously, but
liberally. Pretty fine sort of a chap. It's a damned shame!"

"How about his relations with women?"

The reporter hesitated and glanced guiltily at the dead body.

"That's rather strong - "

"It's not going beyond here, unless I find it necessary. I've played
clean with you boys. Suppose you do the same with me."

"We-e-ell" - reluctantly - "he was rather much of a rounder. Nothing
coarse about him, but he never was one to resist a woman. Rather the
reverse, in fact."

"Ever been mixed up in a scandal?"

"Not publicly. He's friendly with a good many men - and with their wives.
A dozen, I guess; but the husbands invite him to their homes, so I don't
suppose there could be anything in the gossip. You see, folks are always
too eager to talk about a man in his position and whatever woman he
happens to be friendly with. And anyway, there hasn't been nearly so much
talk about him since his engagement was announced."

"He is engaged?"

"Why, yes."

"To a girl in this city!"

"Sure! I thought you knew that. Dandy girl - Hazel Gresham. You've heard
of Garry Gresham? It's his kid sister."

"So-o! How long has this engagement been known?"

"Couple of months. Pretty soft on both sides; he's got money and so has
she. She's a good scout, too, even if she is a kid."

"How old?"

"Hardly more than twenty; but her family seemed to welcome the match.
Warren and Garry Gresham were pretty good friends. Warren was about
thirty-three or thirty-four, you know. Gossip had it that the family was
going to object because of the difference in ages, but they didn't."

Carroll was silent for a moment.

"Nothing else about him you think might prove interesting?"

"No-o."

"And your idea of the murderer, after what you've heard?"

"The woman in the taxicab killed him."

"When did he get in?"

The reporter threw back his head and laughed.

"What is this - a game? If I knew that I'd have your job, Mr. Carroll.
The dame killed him, all right; and when we find out how she did it, and
when, and how he got in and she got out, we'll have a whale of a story!"

"No theories as to the identity of this woman, have you?"

"Nary one. A chap like Warren - bachelor, unencumbered - is liable to know
a heap of 'em. From what you tell me of the tickets - from the fact that
she was going away with him, I sort of figure you might do a little
social investigating and discover what woman might have been going off
with him."

Eric Leverage had been listening intently. His mind, never swift to work,
yet worked surely. His big voice boomed into the conversation:

"Carroll?"

"Yes?"

"This young fellow says Miss Gresham's family didn't have no objections
to the marriage. It just occurred to me to ask him is he _sure_?"

The reporter flushed.

"Why, no, chief; not sure. You never can be sure about things like that;
but so far as the public knew - "

"That's it, exactly. How do we know, though, but what they were sore as a
pup over it, and just kept their traps closed because they didn't want
any gossip? S'posin' they were trying to break things off, an' makin' it
pretty uncomfortable for the girl? S'pose that, eh?"

"Yes," argued the reporter. "Suppose all of that. Where does it get you?"

"It gets you just here" - Leverage talked slowly, heavily, tapping his
spatulate fingers on the table to emphasize his points - "we know this
bird was going to elope with some skirt. All right! Now I ask this - why
go all around the block, looking for some one he might have been mixed up
with, when the woman a man is most likely to elope with is the girl he's
engaged to marry?"

Silence - several seconds of it. Carroll spoke:

"Miss Gresham, you mean?"

"Sure, David - sure! I'm not sayin' she was the woman, mind you. I'm not
sayin' anything except that if I'm right in thinkin' that maybe her
folks weren't as crazy about this guy Warren as they seemed - if I'm
right in that, maybe they was plannin' to take matters in their own
hands and elope."

"It's possible."

"Sure, it's possible, and - "

"But, chief," interrupted the reporter who had done most of the talking,


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